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North Korea orders citizens to read 10,000 pages of propaganda this year

The campaign aims at countering ‘reactionary thoughts’ promoted by South Korean media.

North Korea is ordering citizens to read 10,000 pages of propaganda this year to foster loyalty among the populace – and combat “reactionary” South Korean popular culture –  but sources told Radio Free Asia that the people know that the government wants to brainwash them.

The 10,000-page reading campaign is a rehash of a 1960s policy enacted by leader Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor Kim Jong Il, who at that time was a high-ranking government official when his father Kim Il Sung ruled the country. 

Sources said that the 2023 reading campaign is also meant to counter South Korean movies, TV shows and music smuggled into the country on memory sticks and other devices. 

Authorities have imposed punishments, including public executions, for distributing or watching South Korean media, which is derided by the ruling Korean Workers’ Party as examples of  “reactionary thought and culture.” 

Factory workers in South Pyongan province, north of Pyongyang, were told to focus on texts like Kim Jong Un’s speeches and transcripts of party plenary meetings, a source in the province told Radio Free Asia on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

They have to write down what they read everyday and present it to the party organization at the end of the year,” he said, adding that the 10,000-page reading campaign is the government’s strategy to re-arm the people with socialist ideology. 

“The workers are all saying that the books in North Korea are nothing but propaganda that our great leader is the best, so we are not interested in reading them,” said the source. “If the books were as fun to read as South Korean movies are to watch, wouldn’t we be reading them all night long?”

ENG_KOR_10000Pages_04252023.2.jpg
People visit a national book exhibition on the occasion of the 80th birth anniversary of former leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North Korea, Feb. 10, 2022. Credit: KCNA via KNS/AFP

In North Pyongan province, members of the Socialist Women’s Union were told to read the published works of the current or previous leaders, or novels with a socialist message, a source there told RFA on condition of anonymity to speak freely.

“The purpose of the 10,000-page reading campaign is not to simply achieve the exact number of pages, but to build up mental nourishment to prepare oneself politically and ideologically,” she explained.

The people were told to read at least 30 pages every day and to keep personal reading journals, summarizing the key feelings and thoughts from what they read. The journals are to be reviewed by the party organization at the end of the year.  

The campaign is meant to “eradicate the reactionary thought and culture remaining in the minds of residents and young people, and to rearm the residents with the party’s ideology,” she said. “But who wants to read ten thousand pages of a North Korean book that’s all about praising the leader?”

Translated by Claire Shinyoung Oh Lee. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.


This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By Hyemin Son for RFA Korean.


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